Obviously I can’t read everything in a given year for the kiddos. Someday SOMEDAY this will change. I shall sit upon a velvet cushion while faithful servants serve me peeled grapes as I devour all the books published in the current year. And I’ll have a pony! I mean, while we’re dreaming.
In the meantime I just read bunches of bunches and then make my fellow NYPL children’s librarians read different bunches of bunches. That way we cover everything pretty well. The result, though, is that you start noticing weirdo trends. Trends that no one else would necessarily spot unless they were in the same business. Here then are some of the odder trends we’ve identified in children’s fiction for the publishing year of 2013:
Victorian England: No surprises there. I think it was Cassandra Clare who once pointed out that there’s something wonderful about an era that has railroads and plumbing but no telephones. It’s always been a haven of the middle grade authors and for a time there was a bit of steampunky nonsense that went along with it. This year that’s abated a tad, but we’ve noticed that there are two distinct Victorian categories that defy logic or explanation.
Victorian Trend #1: Mudlarks
How to Catch a Bogle by Catherine Jinks
Freaks by Kieran Larwood
The Great Trouble: A Mystery of London, The Blue Death and a Boy Called Eel by Deborah Hopkinson
Specifically, mudlarks that are minding their own business, traipsing into the disgusting Thames, when they are inexplicably grabbed and sucked down into the muck by some kind of monster. The grabbing part may not be the case for the Hopkinson title (haven’t read it quite yet) but it’s certainly true for the Jinks and Larwood titles. I don’t know that I’d even heard the term “mudlark” before this year either. Now I can’t get away from it. For the record, I highly recommend the Jinks title. Now that they’ve given it a proper book jacket (the one on the galley was lamentable) I expect it’ll have some fans.
Victorian Trend #2: Freak Shows
Beholding Bee by Kimberly Newton Fusco
Wild Boy by Rob Lloyd Jones
Freaks by Kieran Larwood
Larwood has the distinction of combining freak shows AND mudlarks together. Get yer money’s worth this way. I suppose including Fusco is a bit cheap since Bee is only threatened with a future in her carnival’s freak show, and it’s historical but not Victorian, but she does interact with the denizens to some extent, so I’m including it. Of these three I highly recommend Wild Boy. Yes, it is the second book this year with this title (the other being a nonfiction title by Mary Losure that was, somewhat oddly, also published by Candlewick in 2013) but it deserves notice. Call it Furry Sherlock Holmes. Sure the villain is glaringly obvious, but maybe just to adults.
Kids Named Early
Navigating Early by Claire Vanderpool
Hold Fast by Blue Balliett
Fine. It’s just two books. But what are the chances of that, eh? Points to Balliett for not putting Early’s name in the title, by the way. Whenever I see an author do that I am reminded of the Janet Jackson film Poetic Justice which, yes, was about a poet . . . named Justice. You see the problem.
Contemporary Jewish Kid Characters Where Their Religion is Not the Point
Strike Three, You’re Dead by Josh Berk
Mira in the Present Tense by Sita Brahmachari
Aces Wild by Erica S. Perl
The Sasquatch Escape by Suzanne Selfors
The Short Seller by Elissa Brent Weissman
Seriously, this is a rare thing. A friend of mine used to say that if you walked into a children’s library without any prior knowledge you might easily believe that all Jewish people disappeared after the Holocaust. So a book where someone’s Jewish and it’s not the focus of the book? Almost unheard of. By the way, it’s fun to go through these books and to figure out how the authors casually work this info in.
Fairytales and Folktales
We are seeing a record breaking number of folktales and fairytales coming out in the year 2013, folks. While poetry and graphic novels are down far lower than I like, small publishers have picked up the ball where the big publishers have fallen down. Right now I’m looking at at least forty-four decent titles (which I plan on releasing on this blog at the end of the year). This is almost unprecedented. Particularly when you compare it to the twenty-eight poetry books I’ve seen.
There are other odd trends, as well of course. Raccoons are seeing a distinct upsurge this year. Sasquatches are doing nicely. But all in all these are my favorites. And feel free to tell me other books in these categories I may have missed. I love this kind of stuff. Keeps me young.